NPR quote about Cameron Conaway

“In the spirit of social consciousness, Cameron Conaway does the work of calling our attention…”

Cameron Conaway is a poet and writer based in San Francisco

Conaway is the author of six books. They range in topic from his “fierce and fearless memoir” about overcoming inner struggles to his “beautifully realized and scientifically sound” book of poetry about the global impact of malaria. Click here to read a brief bio.


Click the titles below to learn more.

Man Box



Until You Make the Shore


Caged: Memoirs of a Cage-Fighting Poet

Man Box

Man Box is a book of poetry by Cameron Conaway

“Man Box can open up important conversations in gender studies classes everywhere.”

—Dr. Joe Boehman, Dean of Richmond College, University of Richmond


Man Box illuminates the seemingly insignificant patriarchal forces that manifest into a toxic masculinity capable of damaging lives and our planet.


Read the endorsements

Read the foreword from Dr. Joe Boehman


One poem from the collection:

A poem from Cameron Conaway's Man Box



“Cameron Conaway has created a collection of poems from deep in the heart and soul of an ever-changing and healing masculinity. He masterfully uses personal experience and perspective to make visible what so many of us feel but never question, much less articulate. Each poem is an invitation to the reader to feel, to reflect, and to change. As someone who uses artistic expression to ask men and boys to consider and create healthy masculinities, I am grateful to have Man Box as an extraordinary resource.”

—Dr. Tom Schiff, Founder and Executive Director, Phallacies, Inc. and Founding Director of the UMass Men and Masculinities Center


“In this exquisite collection, Conaway breaks the manacles of manhood by bravely disrupting its ‘lexicon of destruction.’ In dialogue with texts that range from ancient to popular culture, his poems explore the myriad ways that boys are ‘the first victims / and the second perpetrators …broken to see / the world as theirs but not / until they murder it.’ The strength of these poems comes from the tenderness and vulnerability they unapologetically express—and the dazzling prosody by which they express it. If ever a book of poetry had the promise to make a vital impact on our contemporary culture, it is Man Box.”

—Christina Cook, author of Ricochet and A Strange Insomnia


Man Box is a heart-full exploration of how we train men to be men, how men go about being men, and the consequences for us all. From boyhood to war to moonlight to death, Conaway bares his soul to help us see our own.”

—Keith E. Edwards, PhD., scholar and educator on men’s identity


“Conaway’s work bleeds an authentic truth; the poems offered in Man Box are a direct extension of that truth–the truth about what it takes to redefine the realms of masculinity and manhood. Man Box equips readers with the kind of strength and fortitude that only comes when one is present in the moments that matter most. These poems ultimately leave readers emotionally involved, as if the speaker is sitting right next to them and challenging them to turn their thoughts into meaningful action.”

—Erin Kelly, author of How To Wait


“Finally a book that doesn’t just talk about challenging toxic masculinity. Humble, perceptive, and gut-wrenchingly vulnerable, Man Box embodies the characteristics necessary for men and boys to redefine manhood in America. Through vivid images from his own complicated history with toxic masculinity, Conaway demonstrates how honest self-reflection can be healing and freeing for men. Man Box is a road map for anyone who dreams of a world where men and boys can be their authentic selves. If we are going to build that world, these poems will help guide the way.”

—Kyle Ashlee, author of VITAL: A Torch For Your Social Justice Journey, and recipient of the 2018 Harry Canon Outstanding Professional Award from the Coalition on Men and Masculinities


“Cameron Conaway is a masterful poet. Man Box is a collection of powerful stories ripped from the lives of men of all walks of life who have been affected by the roles they are encouraged to play. The depth of imagery and vivid depictions of life, love, pain, and family are at once sad, tragic, and remarkably real.

“One of his poems, BREAKING, is such a powerful indictment of what our society has become, and what we sadly face on a daily basis. The deluge of media, of the latest story, and the sad reminder that, more often than not, men are deeply embedded in the pain inflicted and the lives shattered. We need to do something, and it starts with examining our own stories, our own lives, and our own roles in mending the broken fences that we see day after day. In the poem Rain After Rain, Conaway explores the simplicity and beauty of a single act, the holding of a hand, how we long for such moments, but as soon as we think to write it down or share it with the masses, it flees. We long for change, and we long to be inclusive, yet we too often fail to move from longing to action. Conaway writes of this struggle and carries the torch for us, with us, as we march through life.

“As a practitioner in higher education, I am often looking for ways to help men on our campuses grapple with the concepts of real and fake masculinity. What does it mean to be a man? How can I demonstrate love and loss while also maintaining my own sense of self and self-worth? How can I lead while being tragically linked to what some may feel are inherent, expected behaviors? These are all questions that Conaway approaches and deals with head-on. This is a thoughtful collection of poems and stories that will help the reader – men and women alike – better understand what makes up the Man Box.”

—Barry A. Olson, Ed.D., Associate Vice Chancellor, North Carolina State University


‘”Boys are the weaponized / weapons of war.’ In the world of these poems, our world, ‘they are. . . broken to see / the world as theirs but not / until they murder it.’ These poems observe the ways in which men form each other, in violence and also tenderness. They reveal what men learn and unlearn as they grow into deeper connection with themselves and the world around them.”

—Nina Clements, author of Set The Table


An digital image of Cameron Conaway's Man Box

Man Box is also available on Amazon Kindle.


The Man Box is shorthand for what academicians call “hegemonic masculinity” and journalists call “toxic masculinity.” Unfortunately, most of us call it “normal.”

The Man Box describes the limiting definition of what a “real man” is supposed to be. The box is an excellent metaphor, as it contains us as men, not allowing us to wander freely to explore our full selves.

Before we can explore the Man Box, we need to understand how it is developed. Gender—our notion of what it means to be a man or a woman—is a societal construct. What that means is that society sees us as gendered beings, typically masculine or feminine, based on physical attributes, social cues, and how we carry ourselves.

The Man Box is seen as normal because it is the dominant societal construct of masculinity in the United States at this time. It is certainly not the only narrative, but it gets more airplay in our media, in locker rooms, at the backyard grill, and in the workplace than any other narrative.

As with any structure, the Man Box has a framework. That framework is made up of comparison, performance, and competition. As guys, we are taught to prove that we fit in and that we are “man enough.” Because it is a hierarchy, the Man Box pits men against each other to prove (in subtle and not-so-subtle ways) who is the winner—who is “the man,” or the alpha male. Guys who don’t quite measure up are put down by their peers, and sometimes by women, as not being good enough. The framework is held together by shame and feelings of inadequacy, which is reinforced by phrases such as “man up” and “grow some balls.”

The exterior of the Man Box is made up of our perceptions of what a “real man” is. These perceptions include limited expression of emotions, being tough, aggressive, and competitive. These perceptions paint a one-dimensional, action-figure version of masculinity.

There is a difference, however, when you ask people to describe the characteristics of a “good man,” which include being a provider, being honest, having integrity, and being able to give and receive love. This is an image of masculinity that promotes being responsible, treating others with respect, and having positive impact in communities.

Being a good man is what most young men aspire to, but stepping out of the Box to explore other images of masculinity comes with a price. When a man decides to not follow the script of the Man Box, by expressing sadness, by speaking out against rape culture, or simply not being interested in sports, they often face a good deal of harassment in the form of ridicule and shame from men and women alike. Many times, the harassment includes homophobic or misogynistic slurs.

Helping young men break free of the Man Box is tough work, as you are working against an incredible cultural force. To explore an authentic portrayal of masculinity, you need to be vulnerable with yourself and others, which is a fundamental violation of the Man Box. Breaking free requires an understanding of what you’re breaking free from, which can be difficult when the toxicity of the Man Box is as normal as the air we breathe.

This is why this book matters. Cameron Conaway is a gifted poet who has faced this struggle in his own life, and continues to do the soul work that is required to build an authentic personal definition of masculinity. The poems in this book speak to the experience of the Man Box. They speak to the shame, the attempts to measure up to the definitions of manhood given to us by our fathers, by our peers, by the media, even by Big Pharma and store clerks. They speak of the struggle many young men face as they try to be something that goes against the grain; it’s a struggle made all the more difficult when there aren’t mentors to model alternatives.

But there is hope as well. These poems speak to the connection of friends who feel and understand the depth of their brotherhood, to the inner strength that authentic masculinity grows from, and to working through the pain and the fear—what some might call “manning up”—to break free of the limiting definition of the Man Box that society forces them to live in.

This book may give you the tools to dismantle the Man Box. Use them well, and open that sucker up.

—Dr. Joe Boehman, Dean of Richmond College, University of Richmond


Cameron Conaway's Man Box is available on Amazon


Malaria by Cameron Conaway

“For a year I’ve had a slim volume of poetry called Malaria, Poems buzzing around my head.”

The Washington Post's comment about Cameron Conaway's writing

“A frightening and important book.”

Adrian Matejka, 2014 Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry

“Poetry arises when it must and when it’s most needed. These poems are needed.”

Jimmy Santiago Baca, Winner of the American Book Award

Malaria, Poems will change how scientists view the arts and how artists view the sciences. We believe this book will lead to increased collaborations across long disconnected academic departments and global health sectors. There are countless ways to fight malaria; poetry must now be taken seriously as one of them.”


“This book of poems can inspire us to redirect our intelligence and creativity in order to stop the ecological destruction that has spread malaria, and to seek the collective solutions for eradicating this disease.”

Dr. Vandana Shiva, recipient of the Right Livelihood Award and the Sydney Peace Prize

“These are poems that nestle in the space between insect and skin—mosquito and mankind—and so sing the simultaneously beautiful and destructive qualities of both.”

Dorianne Laux, two-time finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award

“A novel approach to an ancient problem, these poems powerfully weave together the scientific facts of malaria with moving glimpses into its unsettling human toll.”

Sonia Shah, author of The Fever: How Malaria Has Ruled Humankind for 500,000 Years

“Malaria will keep killing until we awaken the conscience of compassionate people everywhere; Conaway’s poetry pushes us toward that possibility. Malaria, Poems is an amazing candid book.”

Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi and President of the Gandhi Worldwide Education Institute

“Compassion often lies unawakened when it comes to issues of global health. Malaria, Poems, awakens our compassion by bridging the distance that often exists between malaria and those of us living in malaria-free countries as well as the imaginary distance we place between distant others and ourselves. As the line in the poem ‘Silence, Anopheles’ reminds us: ‘Each other is ourselves.'”

Emma Seppala, Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research & Education

Malaria, Poems is a moving and powerful feat of the empathic imagination. Conaway breathes new life into the idea that poetry can be as much about social justice as aesthetic pleasures and emotional insight.”

Roman Krznaric, author of Empathy: A Handbook for Revolution

Proudly published by

Michigan State University Press

Cameron Conaway's Malaria is available on Amazon


Chittagong is a book of poetry by Cameron Conaway

“A raw, visceral, compelling work that shines a spotlight on a world that most of us don’t know but should.”

The Child Labor Coalition's blurb about Cameron Conaway's book

“These are poems in the essential tradition of witness. They refocus our attention and rehabilitate our sense of perspective. They challenge us to open our eyes.”

-Deborah Bogen, author of Let Me Open You a Swan

Chittagong by Cameron Conaway is a book of poems and essays about the shipbreaking industry in Chittagong, Bangladesh.

Shipbreaking is the dismantling of decommissioned ships, and the industry is known for its pollution and child labor violations. The result of a collision between travel writing, contemporary poetics and bearing witness, Chittagong pushes genre boundaries as it explores the “whirling and whirring dust of togetherness” in Bangladesh’s second largest city.

Want a deeper glimpse into this issue before purchasing the book? Watch this: 

Cameron Conaway's Chittagong is available on Amazon

Until You Make the Shore

Until You Make the Shore is a book of poetry by Cameron Conaway

“Conaway dares us to come close to not only see but also to discover the young women whose freedom to use language defies their incarceration. These are contemporary poems in the finest sense.”

-Patricia Jabbeh Wesley, author of Becoming Ebony

“…a brilliant and deeply moving debut. The book’s unflinching gaze ultimately is about mercy and forgiveness.”

-Todd Davis, author of Winterkill

Four fictionalized female juveniles represent each of the four levels from a juvenile detention center’s Restorative Justice Model. With this as structure, Until You Make the Shore inhabits the humanity of mind, justice and traumatic childhood as it carves its way through systems and harsh realities to find where empathy shines.

Cameron Conaway's Until You Make the Shore is available on Amazon


Bonemeal is a book of poetry by Cameron Conaway

 “…grabs and holds you…. loaded with the subtleties and nuances that are the measure of great poetry.”

-Ray DiZazzo, author of Simian Bridge and The Water Bulls

“Bonemeal is a masterful display of imagery. This is not a must-read; it’s a must-experience. This is poetry in high-definition.”

-Brian Bowers, author of Shadows Chasing Light

Bones of the dead are ground into nutritious meal that gives rise to other lives. Through taut and muscular poetry, Bonemeal pulses this theme into the wreckage of Hurricane Katrina, the laundry workers of Mumbai, the BP oil waters in the Gulf of Mexico, the spoonmaker in Laos and the young Rwandan boy searching through dead bodies in the hopes that he’ll find his mother. This book isn’t so much a guide as a torch willing to light wherever the reader is willing to point it.

Cameron Conaway's Bonemeal is available on Amazon

Caged: Memoirs of Cage-Fighting Poet

Caged: Memoirs of a Cage-Fighting Poet is a memoir by Cameron Conaway

 “A fierce, fearless memoir.”

Dinty W. Moore, author of Crafting the Personal Essay

Accomplished MMA fighter and award-winning writer Cameron Conaway presents in Caged the true story of a young man who overcomes a family background and his own inner torment by learning to channel his frustrations into the physical world of mixed martial arts fighting and the cerebral world of poetry and writing.

It teaches the value of personal reflection, how life’s most painful moments can lead to a deeper understanding and appreciation of human nature, and just what is possible when optimism and determination combine to overcome tough odds.

Caged shows how the pursuit of two seemingly disparate passions helped a struggling boy blossom into a simple man. The result is a literary and lyrical philosophical journey into the heart and mind of a modern-day warrior.

“I was inspired.”

-Ken Shamrock, MMA legend

“He is the voice for all fighters that battle their demons inside the cage.”

-Glen Cordoza, co-author of Becoming a Supple Leopard

“Poetical version of Jiu-Jitsu!”
-Saulo Ribeiro, World BJJ Champion, author of Jiu-Jitsu University

“Conaway presents us with a candid story of a never-give-up attitude and an appreciation of
life despite all of its challenges. His expressionism effectively details his endurance in battling
his demons through mixed martial arts and the human spirit. Caged shows us how something
many consider brutal can actually be a vehicle for achieving purpose and a better understanding
of ourselves.”
-Jim Arvanitis, Black Belt Magazine’s 2009 Instructor of the Year

“There are writers who have ideas, and there are those who have craft. Conaway is both.”
-Lisa Hickey, CEO of Good Men Media Inc.

Cameron Conaway's Caged: Memoirs of a Cage-Fighting Poet is available on Amazon

About the author

CAMERON CONAWAY is the author of six books, including Malaria, Poems, an NPR Best Book of 2014. Of the book, NPR wrote: “In the spirit of social consciousness, Cameron Conaway does the work of calling our attention.”

He is a recipient of the 2016 Daniel Pearl Investigative Journalism Initiative Fellowship, an honor given to one journalist each year, and his work has appeared in publications such as Newsweek, ESPN, The Guardian, Reuters, NPR, Forbes, The Washington Post, Harvard Business Review, Rattle, and Stanford Social Innovation Review, among others.

Conaway has received grants from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and the International Reporting Project, nominations for a National Magazine Award and a Pushcart Prize, and writing residencies from Penn State University, the Wellcome Trust, and the University of Arizona.

He lives in San Francisco.

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Cameron Conaway's author profile on

Want to learn poetry from Cameron? He teaches the #1 poetry class on

This class is not about theory or the history of poetry; it’s about how you can start writing quality poems in as short a time as possible.Cameron Conaway, award-winning poet and journalist, breaks down the myths surrounding what poetry is, who can make it, and how it’s made. He guides us through “the butterfly method,” his own unique process for how to make a poem. This process is at the heart of how he wrote all of his books, including Malaria, Poems, which was one of only four poetry collections named to NPR’s Best Books of 2014 list.

If you’ve wanted to write poetry but felt intimidated or confused, this class is for you. By the end of the class you will have written five poems, all linked by a particular theme you care deeply about, and you’ll be well on your way to putting your first book together.

Recent student testimonials

“Although I’ve been writing poetry for as long as I can remember, this class was a beautiful exercise. It enabled me to learn a different method of structuring my thoughts, writing with intention, and using small noticings in significant ways.”

-Kourtney Torres

“I’m inspired to start writing poetry again.”

-Clarence Albury

“Cameron’s process unlocked personal areas of creativity I didn’t know existed.”

-Alan Jou

Cameron Conaway's Introduction to Making Poems